Madrid, Spain Report of what it's like to live there - 06/10/19
Personal Experiences from Madrid, Spain
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
I have lived in southeast Asia and central Africa prior to Madrid.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
DC is an eight-hour direct flight in the summer on current contract carrier, can be up to 15 hours with connections.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing is mostly apartments in the city (5-30 minute commute) and townhouses in the suburbs (20-40 minute commute). Housing is spacious for Europe with adequate storage.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries are cheaper than DC. Really good produce available all year. You can find most anything here.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Maybe a favorite hot sauce and red pepper flakes. You can find hot sauce here but brands are limited.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are good restaurants all over. Uber eats, Glovo, and deliveroo offer delivery services.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
I had ants at my house, but they were not as bad as other places I have lived. They have this poisonous caterpillar here that causes a reaction in person and people.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO mostly, but Correos is an option as well for local mail.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Not sure. I know some co-workers have full time nannies and others have part-time cleaners.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Gyms are available at a variety of price points. Some of them keep odd hours by American standards (e.g. your membership allows you to work out from 0700-1300 only). Other gyms are open 24/7. Plenty of parks for running, walking, and outdoor fitness classes.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Yes, accepted and used all over the city.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There is an English language Episcopal church and a Catholic church with an English language service. I'm sure there are others.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Definitely need some Spanish to get by, not many outside the tourist areas speak English.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. Uneven sidewalks all over and the metro stations have escalators on some levels but not on others. Elevators at stations are often out of order. Buses are a better bet for mobility impaired, but don't expect anyone to give up a seat to you if you are obviously pregnant or on crutches (speaking from experience).
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes, all are safe and affordable.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Bring a small car or moped for the city. An electric bike would work well too (there are bike shares you can join too). I wouldn't recommend bringing a car bigger than a small SUV because of narrow parking spaces, but people do manage.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, fiber internet is available. Can be installed within a few days.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Plenty of local mobile phone options (contract, pay as you go, bundled with TV and internet) and plenty use T-Mobile and Google Fi as well.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
Plenty of veterinarians and boarding options. If you don't speak Spanish, there is an American veterinarian in Pozuelo. The practice is ok but not great.
Strangely, I had a hard time finding high quality cat and dog food. I ended up buying from the Navy Exchange or ordering from Amazon.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Some spouses work from home, some at the embassy, and a couple on the local economy. Spanish skills are a must for many jobs even at the embassy.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Yes, plenty of causes and organizations to get involved with.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business to business casual at work, depending on the office. Outside of work, anything goes, but Spainerds generally dress nice.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Allergies were an issue for me here and they never bothered me in other locations. Use your sunscreen and hydrate for the heat. Really dry air gave me dry, flaky skin. Bring your moisturizer.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Good medical care is available, including specialists The embassy has a health unit for basic stuff and referrals No need for medevacs here. Many choose to have their babies at local hospitals.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Moderate air quality. Local government restricts cars on high pollution days.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Yes. So many allergies. So much wheezing and sneezing.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
No more so than other places.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Cool in the winter and HOT and DRY in the summer. Spring is lovely. Not much rain and a lot of sunshine.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Several international schools available. No direct experience. Parents if younger children seem to like the American School of Madrid. Mixed reviews for middle and high school-aged kids.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Huge expat community and very good morale.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
There is something for everyone: sports, yoga, hiking, fairs and festivals, classes, bars, clubs...
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Good for everyone.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Yes, very LGBT-friendly. Going out in Chueca is so much fun.
5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
If you speak Spanish well, you might have some luck. There does seem to be prejudice against people of color.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Better than many places, but prejudices definitely still exist and permeate society, especially related to race and to some extent gender (especially with older generations).
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Loved traveling around Spain (Galicia, Basque Country, Andalusia). Great food and wine as well.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Cooking classes, food tours, wine tastings, day trips, hikes...
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Ceramics, wine, and olive oil for shopping. Clothes and shoes not so much.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Easy living, low stress, great jumping off point to explore Europe.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Adjust to Spanish eating times: it will make socializing so much easier. People really don't go out to dinner before 2100 or 2200 hours. Also, learn to speak a little Spanish.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Impatience with bureaucratic processes and expectations for customer service.
4. But don't forget your: